You know it’s going to happen. As soon as your family and friends learn that you’re even beginning to consider a career as an eye doctor, the questions will come rolling in–if they haven’t already. It comes from a good place–a place of pride for your accomplishments and genuine curiosity–but eventually, I promise you, you will hear about every last ocular ailment of everyone in your life. So I think you’d be wise to begin preparing your answers now. Here’s a head start on how to handle some of the most common discussions you’re likely to be forced into over the winter break.
Cataracts (acquired lens opacification)
Also known as “Cadillacs,” this is a common condition almost everyone has heard of, and people are generally more scared about it than they need to be. Keep your emphasis on the good things here: Cataracts usually progress very slowly, so there’s no rush to do anything. We normally wait until the vision is blurred to the point it interferes with everyday activities, then refer for an outpatient surgery with a very low rate of complications. In the mean time, put on some UV-blocking sunglasses to try and slow down progression.
I feel like about 50-60 percent of my close friends are “legally blind without [their] glasses.” Don’t bother getting into the definition of legal blindness here. Acknowledge that their vision is blurry, make sure they’re not abusing their contacts, and let this one go.
When you’re accepted to ICO, the question of whether or not to live in the Residential Complex–the RC–comes up. There are numerous benefits to living in the RC, and there are many reasons why one would choose not to. At this point, I myself am very glad that I opted to live there!
Living in the RC is a very unique experience and I would encourage all new students to partake in this experience to enjoy the benefits of living right across the street from school. I think it’s an especially great experience for first years. The convenience of having the college and all of its amenities right next door is absolutely invaluable; in your first year of optometry school when you are extremely busy (you can’t imagine how busy you will be) you will have the fitness center, cafeteria, library and countless cozy study areas just two minutes away. Additionally, there are many upperclassmen willing to lend an ear to help you get through the stressful times, or to simply provide tutoring or test preparation advice.
For me, coming from Canada and never having been away from home, it was nice to know that I had a place to live already lined up before getting here. I can’t imagine how stressful it would have been knowing that I still had to find an acceptable place to live before classes started. This really helped with adapting to life in a completely new city, adjusting to optometry school expectations, and meeting and forming friendships with many, many new people.
Hola mi nombre es Siva!
(Pido disculpas por mi terrible español)
Yes, darlings–now that I’m at my second externship site where I’m fortunate enough to be learning Spanish on the fly, it’s time to brandish the big guns and start putting my money where my mouth is.
Let’s be real, Spanish is probably one of the most musical languages in the world. Everything sounds better in Spanish, like you’ve just sipped a delicious margarita or something.
It helps that I have a tenuous grasp of French (12 grades of French immersion but I’m still conjugating verbs with the help of my handy Bescherelle). French and Spanish have that common Latin root, and once your tongue can roll those “r”s you are pretty much set to jet.
I’m always amazed at the amount of patients that think I am Spanish–but then again it does really cut to the chase of why they made an eye appointment. If my ethnicity doesn’t scream Indian to you, it makes sense why you’re getting your eyes examined, doesn’t it?
No problema, senor. I’ll get you some nifty glasses.
All jokes aside, with the diversity of Chicago and the multi-ethnic tapestry that makes up the country as a whole, speaking multiple languages is more than an asset. It’s a sheer necessity.
What a difference a year makes. First quarter wrapped up a month ago, and I think all my classmates would agree that first quarter of second year is a walk in the park compared to first quarter of first year. Last quarter, as I walked through the library, I noticed first year students hunched over those dreaded Human Anatomy notes, 20 different colors highlighting the hundreds of tiny anatomical parts we needed to memorize. It was a bittersweet moment: I felt the pain of those first years trying to remember which nerves at the upper thyroid cartilage would be affected by damage to the right side of the throat. But I also rejoiced in the knowledge that I’d never have to relive the rude awakening most of them were experiencing. Spare time was a luxury rarely afforded last year. This year, believe it or not, I’ve actually been able to work out regularly and get more than five hours of sleep a night.
Second year of optometry school has many perks: fewer quarter exams, more afternoons off, fewer labs, and more time with patients–both in clinic and the dispensary. I’m loving second year in general but the highlight so far has to be the Ocular Prosthetics elective that I am taking this quarter.
You not know that the Illinois Eye Institute has an ocularist, Patrick Adkins, who works in the Cornea and Contact Lens clinic on Thursday afternoons. During the rest of the week, he works at his clinic in the suburb of Des Plaines, where he hand creates prosthetic eyes in his lab using plastic that he makes himself by combining raw polymers and monomers.
One of my classmates and I are lucky enough to have the opportunity for five weeks to work with Mr. Adkins on Thursdays. Patients coming to see Mr. Adkins at the IEI have already been fitted with a prosthesis at his clinic; at the IEI they can have their prosthesis cleaned, re-polished and/or refitted.
My responsibilities these afternoons include taking patient history, checking the visual acuity and responsiveness of their good eye (if they are monocular), and assessing how their prosthesis looks and feels.
A patient’s right eye. This particular patient wore a prosthesis in both eyes and also happened to be deaf. She and her translator were incredibly sweet and inspirational.
I’m a firm believer in three things.
Everyone should have a favorite book, a favorite vacation destination, and a favorite pen.
But after a whirlwind weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, I’m now a firm believer in a fourth indisputable truth.
Everyone should get to feel like a celebrity at least once in their life.
I achieved this pinnacle of the human experience when I went to the Academy of EyeCare Excellence earlier this month. Alcon, a global company specializing in eye care products, invites fourth year students to travel to their headquarters in Texas for a weekend and learn about their products. From my arrival to my departure, I was treated like a princess. And not a reality show princess–a legit “I fly on a magic carpet, have a pet tiger, and only bathe in Fiji water” princess.
I knew that I was going to like Texas because that’s where Coach and Tami Taylor reside.
(If you didn’t understand that reference, go to Netflix and watch “Friday Night Lights” seasons 1-5 immediately, and we can reconvene our friendship afterwards.)
So how does one prepare for a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip?